La Tarcoteca

La Tarcoteca

martes, 10 de octubre de 2017

The UK Pensions Crisis – From Prophesy To Reality

Source - The UK Pensions Crisis - From Prophesy To Reality - TruePublica

Can you guess who recently said this? – “Oh, by the way, we’re also going to tax you even more because this Ponzi scheme that we’ve had in play for pensions and for healthcare and for social care for the past 30 years is about to collapse. So therefore we want you to work really, really hard, but when you get to 65, it’s not going to be there. Hands up who thinks that’s a really compelling narrative?”
It was Conservative Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee who became yet another top Tory to have a go his own party as the annual Conservative conference descended into chaos this year. Lee was speaking at a meeting chaired by the Social Market Foundation, a pro-market think tank!
Lee is not wrong, when it comes to pensions. Since the financial collapse, caused by the banking industry, the pension deficit in the UK has now reached the point, for the first time in history, where it has become the biggest liability to the overall economy.
The decision to cut interest rates last August to their lowest ever is only an admission by the Bank of England that the country is still on a full artificial life support system.
HSBC’s head of European credit strategy Jamie Stuttard warned a year ago that Governor Mark Carney’s monetary policy move means:
The pension issue is essentially kicked down the road for somebody else to sort out.”
If you have a pension and you’re still quite a few years from claiming it, you should be really worried. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that there is a very real threat to collecting that pension in any meaningful way. What then? The pension deficit is so serious that it has literally mutated from being nothing one year prior to the financial crisis to Britain’s biggest liability just a decade later.
The pension deficit has sprinted way passed the £430 billion mark, increasing at the rate of at least £40 billion a year and according to the Financial Times (paywall) “more than 85% of UK pension schemes are now in deficit.” In less than ten years, that deficit will climb to the point of implosion.
What happened was easy to understand. The banks blew up the system, the country is actually in recession, even though they say it isn’t, which is why it needs almost zero percent interest rates and hundreds of billions of funding in order to get the banks to lend, so they can make money and strengthen their destroyed balance sheets.
In the meantime, pension providers are unable to get returns on the money invested in them, who in reality need at least 5 or 6 percent just to tread water. The only way to get that type of return is to turn up the risk strategy. UK government gilts are providing no return as many have lost faith in the banks, which in turn drives down the rate of return, making matters even worse for the pension providers.
In 1950, there were 7.2 people aged 20–64 for every person of 65 or over in the OECD countries. By 1980, that ratio dropped to 5.1 and by 2010 it was 4.1. It is projected to reach just 2.1 by 2050. The average ratio for the EU projected to reach 1.8 by 2050.
According to a wikipedia entry on the pensions crisis – “Thousands of private funds have already been wound up (in the UK)”.
Add all the investing problems along with a decade of low interest rates to the fact that the pensioners themselves refuse to die at a financially convenient date for the pension providers – and there’s the catch 22 – and you’re in it. But the Bank of England chief Mark Carney is digging UK pensions deeper into a hole.  With loose monetary policy, Carney is currently acting in the hope of staving off an economic crash in the short term. In reality, all he is doing – as mentioned, is effectively kicking the can down the road for others to collect. All the while, the pensions crisis is getting worse every day and when that deficit is declared un-payable, which it technically is already, the ‘haircuts’ everyone will be taking will cause one almighty recession in its own right. By then, he’ll be back in Canada, shielded from the economic firestorm.
The only options with a crisis like is
A) all affected pension schemes offer big reductions to rebalance their liabilities,
B) the government borrows massive sums of money to shore up those liabilities, hugely increasing the national debt
C) the pension companies offer a one-time payoff or buyout to scheme members that cuts their long term liabilities, or
D) they collapse.
The most likely option you’ll be facing is option A or C as the government simply won’t have the money to bail out pensions after bailing out the banks, which they are still doing and D would cause mass protests or possibly worse.
Of course, the entire country could take the pain, allow artificially low interest rates to increase, which will save the pension companies. Then the scale of ‘zombie’ companies who go bust will become apparent, the stock market will fall, investor dividends will dry up, unemployment will rise causing a risky rise in ‘non-performing’ bank debt. It’s a tightrope as you can see.
Eoin Murray, head of investment at Hermes Investment Management agrees.
QE and ultra-low rates have insulated many companies, and unwary investors, from the dangers that normally lurk; they are now treading a dangerous path. As interest rates begin to meaningfully rise, companies that have been able to borrow cheaply and roll over debt will be exposed. These are the zombie firms that in a normal rate cycle would no longer exist.” Murray went further with a dark warning for investors: “That would mean inefficient companies going bust, but investors also stand to share the pain. Back in 2009 only 2pc of loans issued were “cov-lite”, those which placed few restrictions on a company’s debts and so offered little protection for the investors buying those bonds. By 2013 that was 59pc and last year it hit 75pc, this means the debt markets could be a “powder keg”.
The cost of living and low wage performance has also stopped millions from contributing to pensions, which again, only makes matters worse. This is because ordinary people are already suffering today, let alone being able to invest in their future. One in four households (not individuals, entire households) have less than £95 saved. The savings gap between the wealthy and poor has widened by a huge 25 percent in just the last year. The IMF says this is because average household income is now falling faster than at any time in the last 40 years and according to the ONS is a record since records began back in the 1963.
The result of all this is that one in five have made no pension provision and many millions are facing big future cuts in pension payments or a total wipeout. The other alternative would be to bring in lots of young foreign labour but we have Brexit, and anyway, the new robotics revolution in our factories will only decrease the number of working age people able to contribute.
This problem will have very real consequences for the country and its people quite soon and the Bank of England is fanning the flames of an economic problem set to explode in our faces. Cowardly politicians unable to start the debate on what to do for fear of losing power in the resultant social scandal that should have been dealt with years ago do not help of course.


martes, 26 de septiembre de 2017

Catalonia Referendum: Resisting the Spanish Government Siege

In 1713-14, it took the troops of Spain’s Borbon monarchy 14 months of siege before taking Barcelona and ending Catalan self-rule. In September 2017, Catalonia is again under siege, this time from the central Spanish People’s Party (PP) government. Under prime minister Mariano Rajoy the Spanish state is concentrating all its firepower on stopping the Catalan government’s October 1 independence referendum. On that day, if this siege is successfully resisted, Catalan citizens will vote on whether “Catalonia should become an independent state in the form of a republic.”
Since September 6, the day its parliament adopted its referendum law, Catalonia has experienced a “shock and awe” offensive aimed at forcing the pro-independence government of premier Carles Puigdemont to submit to the central Spanish administration. The adoption of the law by the parliamentary majority of 62 Together For The Yes (JxSí) and 10 People’s Unity List (CUP) MPs was the culmination of an eight-year process that has seen over one million people mobilize every Catalan National Day since 2012.
The stakes could not be higher. If the referendum takes place, the PP minority government in Madrid will suffer a lethal blow to its credibility, opening the way to a change of government in the Spanish state. It would also bring into view the prospect of finally overturning the sub-democratic regime that has been in place in Spain since the late 1970s, when the heirs of the dictatorship of Francisco Franco negotiated a flawed “transition to democracy” with the anti-dictatorship resistance.
By the same token, if the Rajoy government manages to stop October 1, it will be a setback not only for Catalan aspirations to sovereignty but also for all forces in Spain fighting for democratic rights and against austerity. The partial weakening of the “1978 regime” represented by the rise of anti-austerity party Podemos and its allies would be contained: the “constitutionalist” parties – the PP, the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) and the hipster neoliberal outfit Citizens – would be strengthened.
Understanding of the stakes of the fight is increasingly reaching across the whole Spanish state, with left forces like Podemos and the older United Left, which had originally rejected October 1 as “not the referendum Catalonia needs,” now allying with pro-independence forces in the face of a legal and police offensive that amounts to a state of emergency in all but name.
The Fear Campaign
These stark possible outcomes to the conflict explain the ferocity of the Spanish government’s offensive. The Spanish Constitutional Court’s immediate decisions to suspend both the referendum law and the Law of Jurisdictional Transition (to apply in the case on a Yes win) have allowed Spanish prosecutor-general José Manuel Maza to unleash a judicial firestorm via regional Catalan prosecutors’ offices and the High Court of Justice of Catalonia. To date the main thrusts of the offensive have been to:
  • Charge those members of the Catalan parliament’s speakers’ panel who enables debate on the laws with disobeying a lawful instruction and perverting the course of justice;
  • Instruct the electoral commission appointed by the Catalan parliament first to cease all work on the referendum and two days later charging them with usurping public functions, disobedience and misuse of public funds;
  • Formally warn all MPs supporting the Catalan government and 700 senior public servants that any collaboration with the referendum will open them to charges of disobedience, perverting the course of justice and misuse of public funds;
  • Instruct the Catalan police, Spanish National Police, the paramilitary Civil Guard and municipal police forces to locate and confiscate all material related to the referendum;
  • Warn all private media that if they carry advertising material for October 1 they will be liable to prosecution and instructing the heads of Catalan public radio and TV not to carry advertising material for the referendum;
  • Advise owners of halls and public spaces that hosting any events connected with the referendum will open them to prosecution;
  • Have the Spanish postal service instruct its employees not to deliver any material connected to the referendum;
  • Order the closure of the web sites of the Association of Municipalities for Independence (AMI) and the Catalan Association of Municipalities and Shires (ACM) for facilitating collaboration with the referendum and then order the closure of any web site in any way connected with October 1; and
  • Open proceedings against the 712 Catalan mayors (out of 948) who have indicated that their councils will make premises available – as per normal – for the referendum. The mayors are to be summoned to regional prosecutor’s offices, where they will face charges of disobeying a lawful instruction, perversion of the course of justice and misuse of public funds (which carries a jail sentence). The Catalan police have been ordered to arrest any mayor who fails his or her appointment with the prosecutor.
Most seriously of all, in the face of a Catalan government refusal to continue to supply the central Spanish government with a weekly report of its expenditures, the Spanish Council of Ministers (cabinet) decided on September 15 to take direct control of all payments to Catalonia’s creditors, effectively ending its financial autonomy.
Police actions in support of this offensive have so far included a Civil Guard raid on the newspaper El Vallenc (with the editor charged with disobedience, perverting the course of justice and misuse of public funds) and the National Police preventing the anti-capitalist CUP from reading a pro-independence manifesto in Valencia. On September 14, Dolors Sabater, the mayoress of Badalona, Catalonia’s third largest city which is run by a left coalition including pro-independence and pro-sovereignty forces, denounced the Spanish government delegation in Barcelona for making threatening telephone calls to council employees.
At the time of writing (September 17), the Civil Guard claims to have confiscated 1.3 million posters from printeries in Catalonia, while municipal police has been engaged in low-intensity harassment of Yes campaign stalls. However, the main meetings of the referendum campaign, including the Yes case’s 13,000-strong launch in the southern industrial city of Tarragona, have so far gone ahead without impediment.
The most potentially damaging action to date was the Civil Guard’s closing of the referendum web site. When this was done on September 13 the Catalan government had two replacement sites on line immediately. These and others were then closed down by September 15, but on September 16 premier Puigdemont tweeted instructions on how to access the referendum web site via proxy servers invulnerable to against Civil Guard interference.
Symptomatic of the rising concern the Catalan rebellion is causing in the establishment was the September 12 decision of a Madrid judge to ban a meeting on the Catalan right to decide from taking place on Madrid Council premises: the grounds were that “the general interests of the citizens precludes the realization of public events in favour of an illegal referendum.” The organizers of the meeting, the platform Madrid for the Right to Decide, then rescheduled the meeting to another location. When it was finally held on September 16, the crowd overflowed the theatre and filled the nearby street.
At the time of writing, over 60,000 people potentially face charges for associating themselves with the “illegal” referendum and the rumours are of even more drastic action to come. The PP is supposedly moving towards establishing the legal and political grounds for suspending the Catalan government under article 155 of the Spanish Constitution; 4000 extra National Police are ready to be deployed; the Civil Guard is bringing extra agents into Catalonia – such is the daily dose of psychological warfare to which Catalans are being exposed.
In a September 17 interview with the web-based daily VilaWeb premier Puigdemont described how far he thought the Spanish government’s intervention had come:
“[T]he Spanish government is near as well implementing articles 116 [covering conditions for declaring states of emergency or siege] and 155 without having to declare them. It is looking for the practical impact of a state of emergency – suspension of public events, confiscation of informative material, intimidation of the means of communication, creation of a generalised climate of persecution of all mayors…”
On September 16, in an address to the PP faithful in Barcelona, prime minister Rajoy warned:
“Don’t force us to go to a point that we don’t want to arrive at.”
Who are the Authoritarians?
The blatant goal of the central government campaign has been to create a climate of fear and panic: the October 1 referendum is a political Chernobyl – if you even touch it you won’t only go to jail, you´ll lose all your assets – like former Catalan premier Artur Mas and three of his ministers, who stand to lose five million euros for allowing a September 9, 2014 “participatory process” (9N) to go ahead in the face of a court ban (over 2.3 million of Catalonia’s 5.5 million voters took part).
Central government ministers have personally weighed into this campaign. On September 12, finance minister Cristobal Montoro said that “nobody’s going to use a euro of public money against the law: it didn’t happen on November 9, and it won’t happen on October 1, unless someone wants to put their assets at risk.” On September 13, Rajoy announced:
“I say to everyone who understands that the government has to carry out its obligation, that we’re going to do that, that they needn’t worry. If anyone is asked to staff a voting centre, don’t go because there can’t be a referendum and it would be an absolutely illegal act.”
With this statement Rajoy unwittingly betrayed his government’s double approach: to stop the referendum by any and every means that don’t entail an intolerable political cost (like sending in the army) and, if that’s finally not possible, to at least drive participation in the referendum to as low a point as possible.
At the core of the PP approach is the big lie that the Spanish government has no choice but to have the law obeyed because a Scottish-style negotiated referendum was always impossible under the Spanish constitution. However, as many Spanish jurists have pointed out, the Constitution provides mechanisms for consultations of a part of the population of the Spanish state – the PP chose not to have one in the Catalan case because it has always seen greater political gain in cultivating anti-Catalanism in the rest of Spain.
Having made that choice, the PP has then had no option but to paint and themselves as the staunch and principled upholders of constitutionality against the authoritarian and anti-democratic Catalan outlaws “abducted” (term of prosecutor-general Maza) by separatism. Matters have reached the bizarre point where some PPers have accused the Catalan government of having Nazi and Francoist tendencies.
The Fight to Adopt the Referendum Law
It was the need to paint the Catalan movement in these black terms that drove the tactics of the PP and the other unionist parties in the September 6 and 7 sessions of the Catalan parliament that adopted the new laws. Spanish television channels were able to broadcast two days of filibustering, procedural haggling and theatrical outrage from the PP, Citizens , the Party of Socialists of Catalonia (PSC) and even from a fraction of the left coalition Catalonia Yes We Can (CSQEP).
It could not have been otherwise. In order to get a referendum in Catalonia in the face of the Spanish institutional refusal to negotiate (18 rejections since 2012), the Catalan parliamentary majority had no choice but to develop its own referendum bill. It was inevitable that this would be met with filibustering and procedural antics aimed at bogging down its adoption. To get it through parliament without giving the opposition the chance to delay its implementation through court appeals, the majority also had to use a fast track procedural provision.
The majority also had to shun the advice of the parliamentary speakership panel’s two legal advisers – who pointed out the bill’s unconstitutionality in terms of Spanish law – and to refuse to allow parliament to seek an opinion from the Catalan Council of Statutory Guarantees, which would also have been certain to point out that incompatibility. CQSEP MP Joan Coscubiela described this approach as “unprecedentedly anti-democratic.”
However, premier Puigdemont justified it in these words:
“They’ll get us lost talking about public servants, attorneys-at-law, the Council of Guarantees… However, what is important are the citizens. And they are demanding respect for fundamental rights, for human rights, including the right to self-determination.”
In the two days of acrimonious debate, the PP and Citizens speakers made a point of speaking in Spanish, so that their message could be understood by people in the rest of Spain (the interventions of the majority, done in Catalan, would have been mainly lost on them). The supposedly undemocratic behavior of the speakership panel majority and of the speaker Carme Forcadell could thereby more readily become an “accepted truth” for Spanish public opinion: this impression would have hopefully been reinforced for the PP, Citizens and the PSC by their decision to walk out of the chamber when the final vote was taken on both pieces of legislation.
The conservative Madrid media – sworn enemy of the right to self-determination and even of acknowledging Spain’s plurinational reality – described the adoption of the new laws as “democracy kidnapped” (La Razón) and a “coup d’etat” (ABC). The Spanish deputy prime minister Soraya Saenz de Santamaria, in charge of the PP government’s operations against Catalonia, said: “I’ve never felt such shame on behalf of democracy in my life.”
Prime minister Rajoy then used the supposedly outrageous behavior of the Catalan parliament to justify his government’s legal carpet bombing. He warned on September 13:
“This was an anti-democratic act, a blow against democracy. And in Spain the law gets carried out because if not it would mean that the will of the majority of citizens counts for nothing.”
The Battle for Participation
How has the Catalan government reacted to this aggression?
On the one hand by insisting that all logistics are in place for October 1, that the referendum will be going ahead regardless of the legal and constitutional barrage, and that people should be able to vote at their usual polling station. In cases where local councils refuse to make these available, the Catalan government will make its own premises available as voting centres. At the September 14 launch of the Yes campaign, Puigdemont said: “Does anyone really believe we won’t be voting on October 1? What sort of people do they think we are?”
Such confidence became more plausible earlier on the same day, when the Catalan government and Barcelona Council announced they had reached an agreement on providing voting centres in the Barcelona area. This was an important gain in the critical battle for participation, because it puts Catalonia’s biggest municipality on the side of October 1. Ada Colau, the Barcelona mayoress who had come in for criticism for delaying a decision on the issue, came to the agreement with the government despite advice from the council’s legal service that it would potentially open the administration to prosecution.
On September 16, when the mayors potentially facing charges demonstrated in central Barcelona, Colau was there to greet them on behalf of Barcelona Council. She said:
“This is not about independence. They will find an entire people against them in defence of the rights that have cost so much to win.”
Colau’s position reflected a shift in Catalonia’s non-independence left towards participating in October 1, even while still regarding it as “not the referendum Catalonia needs” but mobilization against the Rajoy government and for a Catalan right to decide. This is because a considerable part of its support – mainly but not only working people from other parts of Spain who have immigrated to Catalonia – do not support a unilateral referendum in which the independence case is likely to win. In the world of the “commons” – the catch-all term for Barcelona en Comú (running Barcelona Council), En Comú Podem (largest Catalan force in the Spanish parliament) and Catalunya en Comú (grouping together Barcelona en Comú and the “old left” forces Initiative for Catalonia-Greens, United and Alternative Left and the green party Equo) – the October 1 referendum had intensified differences over how to relate to a unilateral consultation.
However, in the atmosphere of increasing aggression from the Rajoy government a shift towards greater support for October 1 showed in the results of Catalunya en Comú’s membership ballot on whether to participate. The result was 59.39% for to 41.61% against, with 44% of the membership taking part. According to its coordinator Xavier Domènech, Catalunya en Comú will “stage events denouncing the repression and affirming the rights of the Catalans … If, finally, there are ballot boxes, we’ll be going to vote.” This was a move away from an initial orientation that focused more on demanding guarantees from the Catalan government than on how Catalunya en Comú might be able to intervene most fruitfully in the referendum process.
It also represented a defeat for those forces in the party that had called for a boycott of October 1, as organized around the manifesto “Don’t Participate or Call for Participation in the October 1 Referendum.” The shift also came with the effective dropping of their call by Pablo Iglesias and Alberto Garzón, leaders at the level of the Spanish state of Podemos and the United Left, for the commons not to participate.
Nevertheless, despite the Catalunya en Comú membership ballot result certain mayors within the universe of the commons will still not be making their councils premises available for the referendum, the main example being the Initiative For Catalonia mayor of the greater Barcelona industrial town El Prat de Llobregat. In other councils where councilors from the commons are part of the government – especially in partnership with ERC – they have already voted to make premises available on October 1.
As for the PSC, it is driving the campaign among working-class voters to ensure that October 1 is a low turnout flop if it eventually goes ahead. In the two provincial capitals run by the Catalan social democracy (Lleida and Tarragona) councils have refused to make premises available despite protests demanding that they do. The PSC has denounced the supposed intimidation these demonstrations represent. In others towns it controls, such as the outer Barcelona industrial city of Santa Colomer de Gramanet, the PSC has refused to make council premises available for meetings on the referendum.
The party has started an active boycott campaign, launching a manifesto called “On the illegal ‘referendum’ of October 1.” There are signs that this may be beginning to have some effect: all polls previous to September 17 showed around 50% of PSC supporters prepared to vote in the referendum. This figure has fallen in the latest Opinòmetre poll to 35%.
However, even as it tries to wreck October 1 and supports all legal activity to stop it, the PSC has to try to appear as not simply the running dog of the PP. A sign that it does not want to cut all ties with forces supporting the referendum was a September 10 statement by PSOE federal secretary Pedro Sánchezto the effect that, even if Barcelona Council provided voting centres for the referendum, he did not think the PSC should break its governing alliance with Ada Colau’s party (Barcelona en Comú).
Conclusion
If morale and commitment were enough to win on October 1, the victory would already be secure. In the days since the 712 mayors were summoned to appear before the prosecutors, 38 more have signed up to make their council’s premises available for the referendum. To ensure the proper staffing of voting stations, 5000 volunteers were needed: 47,000 have put their name down to help (13,000 more than for 9N).
Nonetheless, the Rajoy government simply cannot afford to lose this fight. Backed by the monarchy, big business, the establishment media, three of the four major Spanish parties and the four main associations of judges, it still remains confident in its capacity to cripple the Puigdemont government.
The deciding factors will be: whether the Puigdemont government is organized enough to ward off Madrid’s sustained attack on the logistics of October 1; whether the mass of Catalan supporters of independence – and of basic democratic rights – are strong enough to make the Rajoy government pay as high a political price as possible for each new act of aggression; and whether, in the case that the referendum goes ahead, the enormous media campaign to denigrate it as a “fraud” fails to reduce participation.
At the time of writing the political cost of the Rajoy government’s aggression is increasing, domestically and internationally. For example, while its legal aggression has received no explicit support from beyond the borders of the Spanish state, support for a negotiated referendum has come from the Scottish government and from 17 Danish parliamentarians representing seven different parties.
Within Catalonia, the Civil Guard’s confiscation of posters is being answered with the reproduction on home printers of posters downloaded from improvised web sites and then pasted up by teams of volunteers from the Catalan mass organizations. The September 16-17 weekend meetings on the referendum went ahead without police interference and were bigger than all expectations (and the halls in which they were supposed to fit). On September 17, 30,000 marched in Bilbao (in the Basque Country) in support of Catalonia’s referendum.
The campaign for October 1 is increasingly taking the form of a peaceful insurrection for democracy against the authoritarian Spanish state – all democrats will be doing what they can to help it prevail.
Dick Nichols is Green Left Weekly’s European correspondent, based in Barcelona. An initial version of this article has appeared on its web site. This article first published on the Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal website.
Featured image is from the author.

miércoles, 20 de septiembre de 2017

Patriotism - Poem Radical Glasgow's Anarchist Critic

Source- Poetry 1 | Radical Glasgow's Anarchist Critic

Patriotism

No, I shall not die for the fluttering flag,
if truth be known, ’tis nothing but a multi-coloured rag
held aloft by some foolish hand
inciting worker and peasant to kill
on some green and wooded hill,
peasant and worker from some other land.
Nor shall I shed blood for the fluttering rag
that brings out fools to stand and brag
of brutal deeds painted grand,
deeds where rustic and craftsman lie so still
killed by my brothers' misguided hand.
No allegiance have I for the Nation
this man made autocratic creation
that divides my brothers in a world so small,
binds us to a country's cause, right or wrong,
bids us follow its drum, sing its song,
then sheds our blood in some border brawl.
No, I'll be no slave to flag or nation,
have no ear for power oration,
though its iron heel is on my breast,
my back feels its leather thong,

at patriotism's barracoon, I'll be no guest.

viernes, 8 de septiembre de 2017

Call: Bristol Set for a VERY active couple of weeks sep 2017 - Bristol Anarchist Federation.

We were just about to bang away on the keyboard listing all of the demonstrations, festivities and events coming up in the fortnight. However, we spotted that our friends over at Bristol IWW had just done the same, and we hope they won't mind us coping their homework. Cheers comrades!
Make it to as many of these as you can - we'll certainly be there!
This Saturday, the 9th of September, there is an IWW contingent joining the anti-austerity march and rally called by Bristol People’s Assembly and Bristol Labour Party on College Green. Facebook event here. Look for the IWW banner [and the AFed one, probably next to it]
Sadly on the 10th of September, fascists will be descending upon our city from outside Bristol attempting to whip up Islamophobia and hatred. This time we’re dealing with Tommy Robinson front group ‘Gays Against Sharia’ who will be attempting to use the LGBT community to peddle known fascist speakers such as former BNP youth activist Jack BuckbyPaul Weston of Pegida UK/Liberty GB, figurehead of the EDL’s deluded LGBT grouping Tommy Cook aka Tommy English and wingnut fash-favourite, UKIP leadership candidate Anne Marie Waters. Bristol Queercaf have already called a counter demonstration and Bristol IWW encourages all members and supporters to go along. Fascist groups have never had much success at organising in our brilliant city but we need to keep opposing until they finally get the message. Again look for our banner or check Loomio for on the day plans.
On the 14th of September the IWW have their branch meeting, which will include a workshop with our FWs from the Incarcerated Workers’ Organising Committee (IWOC). Come and find out how IWOC supports prisoners to organise & fight back against prison slavery and the prison system itself. After the meeting we generally go for a drink in a local pub. [For more on the prison abolition movement see the latest issue of Organise! - which you can download for free or pick up from Hydra Books or Kebele Info Shop]
On the 16th of September we’ll be running our usual stall at the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair with pamphlets, badges and other merchandise. This year’s event has moved to St Werburghs Community Centre BS2 9TJ
Finally on the 17th of September Bristol Radical History Group will be holding a Radical History Festival at the M-Shed, which looks to be a really interesting event with some contributions from local Wobblies.
Whatever you’re doing have a lovely September and we hope to see you sometime.

martes, 29 de agosto de 2017

Public meeting of London Anarchist Federation: 31st Aug 7pm 5e Pundersons Gardens, London E2

Next public meeting of London Anarchist Federation:
- The Anarchist Movement in Modern Spain
- Report back on factfinding tour of Spanish anarchist movement by AF member

7pm Thursday August 31st at Common House, 5e Pundersons Gardens, London E2 (nearest tube Bethnal Green. Plenty of time or discussion, refreshments)

sábado, 19 de agosto de 2017

6 reasons why Chomsky is wrong about Antifa

Source - 6 reasons why Chomsky is wrong about antifa 18.8.2017

Noam Chomsky recently made some comments about antifa, and militant anti-fascism in general, which were as ill-timed as they were ill-informed. Here's what we think he's got wrong about the subject.
In the aftermath of Charlottesville, the spotlight has been turned on the reality of fascist violence in America. The murder of Heather Heyer is only the most recent in a year which has seen numerous other killings (such as the two on the Portland MAX in May and Timothy Caughman in New York City), with the 2015 killing of nine worshippers at Denmark Vesey's church in Charleston by Dylann Roof showing a continuity of far-right violence long before the election of Donald Trump.
Despite all this, many liberal talking heads have also decided that now is the time to condemn those opposing the fascists. Perhaps the most upsetting, has been the intervention of Noam Chomsky, given how important a figure he was to our politics when we were growing up. But what did Chomsky get wrong?

1) Antifa's 'predecessors' are more significant than Chomsky thinks

Chomsky describes Antifa as "a minuscule fringe of the Left, just as its predecessors were" with "some limited similarity to the Weather Underground". While we might take issue with Chomsky's description of contemporary Antifa, another problem is his misrepresentation of its "predecessors".
Antifa's predecessors have almost nothing to do with the Weather Underground. Rather, they can be seen in the mass mobilisation against Mosley's Blackshirts in Cable Street, East London, as well as less famous mobilisations in ManchesterLiverpoolNewcastleHulme and Stockton.
They are the 43 Group and the 62 Group, Jewish-led organisations who took it upon themselves to smash Mosley's attempts to reorganise after the Second World War. They are in the mass mobilisation of locals in Lewisham, South East London, in 1977, the Southall Youth Movement who fought skinheads in the streets and Anti-Fascist Action, who regularly routed fascists throughout the country from the mid-1980s to the late-1990s.
In Europe, they are the Red Warriors of Paris or the Revolutionary Front in Sweden. And in North America they were the Teamsters who formed a defense guard against the Silver Shirts in the 1930s, or Anti-Racist Action who took on Klansmen and the National Socialist Movement from the 1980s until very recently.
None of these can or should be dismissed as easily as Chomsky seems to.

2) Antifa are 'a major gift to the Right, including the militant Right, who are exuberant'?

When the extreme-right get smashed by anti-fascists, they are not exuberant.
When anti-fascists in Liverpool wiped the floor with the 2015 White Man March in Liverpool, they were not exuberant; they were utterly humiliated.
When the English Defence League were chased out of Walthamstow in 2012, they were not exuberant, they were utterly humiliated.
The 43 Group, 62 Group and Anti-Fascist Action successfully disrupted organised street fascism in the UK for decades after World War Two.
In all these cases, physical defeats led to increased divisions in the far-right, mutual recriminations and, most importantly, a puncturing of the invincible street-fighter image these groups like to cultivate for themselves.
Of course they will try and spin every defeat as them being victimised. But, they would just as much spin any unopposed march as a successful show of force, especially if they go searching for targets afterwards, as they have done in the past; 'ignore fascists until they go away' only works if you have the privilege of being ignored by them as well.
A physical defeat is not a gift to the militant right; it is one of the most effective ways of keeping them weak.

Attendees of the 'White Man March' not looking very exuberant as they hide in Liverpool Lime Street's left luggage department, 2015.

3) Denying fascists a platform is not 'wrong in principle'

Perhaps Chomsky's most dangerous claim is that "What [antifa] do is often wrong in principle – like blocking talks". We say dangerous because it encourages people to provide space for fascism to grow in.
There is nothing wrong with denying fascists a platform, whether these be rallies, demonstrations, public meetings or debates. Fascists use their platforms to build strength and, as they grow stronger, to attack their opponents.
We are not duty-bound to give fascists somewhere to spread their hate. In 2002, the train drivers' union, Aslef, expelled a member who had been a local election candidate for the far-right BNP. Perhaps Chomsky thinks this is wrong? Perhaps they were duty bound to accept a member who would sow divisions between white and non-white members? Perhaps Aslef should have organised a public debate to hear him out?
Fascists love it when liberals provide them with a platform. It helps them spread their message so that they can build numbers and confidence to crush their opponents - liberals included.
These platforms - whether on city streets or in debate halls - should not be provided.

4) Street confrontations are not always won by 'the toughest and most brutal'...

Chomsky claims "When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it's the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is". Yet mass anti-fascist mobilisation can shut down fascists without being 'the most brutal'. In Liverpool, fascists ran to hide in a train station's left luggage department after being outnumbered 10-to-1. In Brighton, fascist marches have been made impossible without heavy police escort due to mass local opposition.
Ultimately, the most powerful force in society is the working class. We can always win when we turn out in force.

5) ... and the far-right aren't always 'the toughest and most brutal' anyway.

It is the stuff of far-right fairy tales that they have the monopoly on using violence. The experience of Post-World War Two Britain is that the far-right, for all their bluster, were not as 'good on the pavement' as they thought they were. From the 43 Group to the 62 Group to AFA, the far-right were frequently beaten on the streets.
While it is important that we focus on building mass, working-class anti-racist movements rather than crack squads of elite anti-fascist special forces, it's also important not to perpetuate the myths which the far-right perpetuate about themselves. Just look at this loser for a start:

6) Physical opposition to fascism does not negate 'constructive activism'

Chomsky's claim that one of the "costs" of physical confrontation with fascists is the "loss of the opportunity for education, organizing, and serious and constructive activism" is a false division. Moreover, it's one that shows a lack of real-life contact with anti-fascists.
In reality, anti-fascists often are involved in activity beyond 'anti-fascism' whether that be migrant solidarity, union organising, anti-police violence or whatever else. They hold film screenings, concerts and football tournaments. The fact that Chomsky misses all this says more about him than it does anti-fascists.
If people are prepared to put their lives and safety on the line to resist fascism that's a choice which should be celebrated. Community self-defense can create space for other organising to happen, whereas un-opposed fascists will happily crash and disrupt left meetings and organising.
A big contingent of antifascist mobilisations in the US have been associated with the IWW, a radical union which puts huge importance on serious, constructive education and organising. You can organise at work Monday to Friday and oppose fascists when they occasionally come to town on Saturday, that's not much of an 'opportunity cost.'
Ultimately, it's important to remember that 'anti-fascism' will never be enough to defeat fascism; in fact, there is no defeating fascism without defeating capitalism. That means building a mass, working-class political culture that stands as an alternative to both the far-right and the liberal politics of 'business as usual': vibrant workplace organisations both inside and out of traditional unions, community groups fighting on housing, police brutality, proper provision for survivors of domestic violence, migrant solidarity, and so much more it couldn't possibly fit here.
We mustn't think of antifa as an end in and of itself. But we don't need the left's most prominent public intellectuals to throw them under the bus either.